A Canadian media report has alleged that in 2007, minister for heavy industry, Mr Praful Patel, accepted $250,000 from an Indian-born Canadian citizen, Mr Nazir Karigar, during his tenure as civil aviation minister, to try and secure a $100 million contract for a facial-recognition system for Air India.

Mr Karigar was working on behalf of CryptoMetrics, a hi-tech security company. He has been implicated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on charges that he paid bribes to Mr Patel and two Air India managers and conspired with former Mumbai police commissioner and director of security for Air India, Mr Hasan Ghafoor. The company declared bankruptcy soon after Mr Karigar was charged.  

Mr Patel denies the allegations and has written a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention and claiming his innocence. “A perusal of Al’s records would demonstrate that these allegations are baseless and false and that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, at any level from the ministry of civil aviation, or me, personally in this matter. In any event, […] this EOI/tender had been scapped in the initial stages”.

Mr Ghafoor has acknowledged a friendship with Mr Karigar but rejects the allegations.

Mr Karigar is the first individual to be charged under the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. In April, Mr Karigar is expected to argue that the charges should be dismissed as there is no “real and substantial link” to Canada.